Beer or Wine? Four Excellent Events Battle It Out In October

Beer or wine?

Atlanta beer and wine lovers have much to rejoice over, as the first two weeks of October bring one whale of a wine celebration at the Georgia Aquarium, two hopped up beer celebrations in Decatur and Glenwood Park, AND one intimate event pitting wine vs. beer for pairing prowess. Yes, there are many other events happening in Atlanta in October, but these four will be shining a very bright spotlight on some stellar beers and wines.

Firmly on the wine side of things, AQUA VINO on October 14 is one of the city’s major wine events, benefitting the Georgia Aquarium’s Correll Center for Aquatic Animal Health. Your ticket will indeed save the whales. Guaranteed. Well, maybe we shouldn’t go that far, but this is a great cause, and a great excuse to sample hundreds of wines from around the world, with more than 30 of Atlanta’s best restaurants providing the food, in one of Atlanta’s most amazing settings – next to the swimming seas of the aquarium itself. More info and tickets here.

Moving over to the beer side of life, things are getting crazy, with HOTOBERFEST on October 2 (this weekend folks!) and the Decatur Craft Beer Festival just two weeks later on October 16. Both of these events are best described as “beyond awesome” – the quality and variety of beer available will be astounding, the music will be rockin, hopefully the weather will be as stunning as it has been the past few days as the cool, crisp air of Fall finally settles over Atlanta. HOTOBERFEST offers three ways of partaking in the fun, from free entry to the main festival area and a la carte beer purchases to the (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) “Firkin VIP Ticket” that gets you tastes of an incredible lineup of crazy casks, seasonal beers, and more from the likes of Allagash, Sweetwater, Terrapin and Atlanta Brewing (with a special 15 year anniversary vintage brown ale aged in Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels!!). Meanwhile, the Decatur Craft Beer Festival again sold out in something like seventeen seconds or so, so you’ll have to pray for a ticket to fall from the heavens or peruse Craigslist for unsavory characters scalping their way to profit.

And, finally, a showdown between our two featured beverages, BEER vs. WINE at 5 Seasons Westside on October 6. The wine hails from heralded Lioco Winery of California, who is pairing two of their stellar chardonnays, two of their pinot noirs, and their truly unique “Indica” blend with five courses prepared by 5 Seasons Chef David Larkworthy. And the beer, of course, comes from 5 Seasons themselves, with a killer lineup of unique aged brews (the “Burgundian” for example is a saison aged in a pinot noir barrel). Does 5 Seasons have the home field advantage? Maybe so, but being able to taste this lineup of Lioco wines will surely have the crowd cheering for the visiting team as well. All this for $55 per person, reservations required – call 5 Seasons at 404-875-3232.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and support these great Atlanta events! No matter who the victor, beer or wine, it will surely be a good game.

A Peek Into Empire State South

koozie closeup

Empire State South has Atlanta buzzing, both literally and figuratively, and their coffee and wine programs are part of the allure. Jonathan Pascual is the guru behind the coffee bar, stocked with Counter Culture beans, and has a unique concoction to battle the Atlanta heat – “Georgia Coffee: Served in a 16-ounce Mason jar, the iced coffee comes creamed and sweetened. Shaken not stirred.” True enough, he employs a cocktail shaker to whip this one into a frothy delight. The coffee menu also lists our very favorite espresso preparation, the Cortado – “Served in a Gibraltar glass, the 4-ounce beverage is for someone who wants to taste the espresso but not be overwhelmed by steamed milk.”

On the wine side, wine director Steven Grubbs has assembled a delightful list, heavy on Burgundy and Riesling. We’ve already added them to our Thirsty Guide to Atlanta, and if you get there soon, you can take advantage of one of the best wine deals in town – a bottle of Claude Genet Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Champagne for $40. This is a crazy good price, and a crazy good wine (see Grower Champagne, AKA Farmer Fizz), with a nose of toasted almonds and yeasty biscuits (is there such a thing?), followed by hints of vanilla, baked apples, a burst of lemon, and a finish that manages to be both crisp and creamy. No telling how much of this they have left in stock, but it’s a steal. And works wonders alongside their peach tart dessert.

We’ve yet to tap into the cocktail list in any significant way, but if the coffee and wine are any indication (not to mention the nice selection of American whiskey you can see behind the bar), there are delights there as well.

A peek inside. First, the coffee bar and the Georgia Coffee all wrapped up:
coffee bar
coffee
coffee koozie

Then, the selection behind the bar, and by the glass:
bar
glass

Finally, a happy table, graced with Claude Genet Champagne, oh, and some food!
champagne
farmer fizz
food

Drinking Locally, Cheers to Cypress St. Pint & Plate

Right on the heels of our post In Praise of Drinking Locally, the fine folks at Cypress Street Pint & Plate in midtown Atlanta hosted a “local tap takeover” Beer Geek Tuesday, that brought together some great Georgia brewers – Jailhouse Brewing, Sweetwater, Terrapin, Red Brick, and the most recent newcomers to the local beer scene, Wild Heaven and O’Dempseys. This was probably the first ever event to feature all of these Georgia beers in one place (not to mention having the actual brewers or brewery reps on hand to participate), and Wes and the Cypress crew did a great job pushing forward the cause of drinking local beer. Here’s to more events in the future that celebrate our great local products and the people behind them.

At Cypress, we had the pleasure of meeting a few of the gentlemen behind HotoberfestDO NOT MISS this big event on October 2, which will feature a number of great Georgia beers (including special casks – Sweetwater Cask IPA with black pepper, anyone?) among the hundreds of stellar beers “on tap.” Oh, and the one and only Ale Sharpton was in the house that night, too – please check out his new blog for unbridled beer enthusiasm.

Georgia Beer

Coffee 101 in Atlanta

Costa Rica coffee

Atlanta is fortunate to have two major coffee roasters in town who are more than happy to give the coffee-drinking masses opportunities to learn more about beans and brewing. Counter Culture Coffee, who supplies places like Octane with a variety of beans, has weekly “cuppings” – every Friday at 10am – at their King Plow Arts Center facility. And YOU are invited. It’s a fun experience, and you will definitely learn a few things from David and the crew – each week is different depending on what beans are coming in the door. A few hours later each Friday (1pm), across town in Decatur at their Dancing Goats Coffee Bar, Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters is running their own cuppings – and you’re invited to those, too.

Now, if that’s not enough, both of those roasters also go above and beyond with other learning opportunities every once and a while. Batdorf & Bronson just so happened to offer a free “Coffee 101” tour of their roasting facility this week, and Thirsty South was there to learn from Jason, “head of Bean Knowledgy.” We learned about the primary coffee growing regions, the microlot challenges in Ethiopia right now, processing and roasting techniques, and most importantly got to witness “coffee-roasting Elvis.” Actually, Jason probably topped Elvis with some highly caffeinated insights – where else will you get a comparison of Central American vs. African coffees as a battle between Bob Marley and Mike Tyson? You heard me – Central American coffees tend to go in the direction of laid-back, mellow flavors; while African coffees tend towards “all up in your face, bite your ears off” power. Don’t believe me? Give a few of the different Batdorf & Bronson coffees a spin, and see if you can spot Iron Mike.

Here are a few photos to give you a feel for the Batdorf & Bronson roasting facility. First up, industrial chic on Carroll Street off Marietta Road:
Batdorf & Bronson

Beans – some very happy and buzzed “trash cans”, followed by Ethiopian Harar ready to brew (good stuff, we tasted this at the end of the tour):
Dancing Goats
Ethiopia Harar

And to top it off, the veritable crema on the espresso, a collage: (clockwise from upper right) pouring into the aeropress, Jason demonstrating superior pumping action, “coffee-roasting Elvis,” and a beautiful machine – the Probat small batch roaster:
Batdorf

For more information, please visit the websites of Counter Culture Coffee and Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters. Call ahead or email them to confirm cuppings and other events.

Cocktails: Apple Season in a Glass

Summer is still hanging on with a vengeance, sunny hot days melting into cool September nights. Despite the heat, autumn is around the corner, and apple season is already here. Just head up to North Georgia and the apple trees are bountiful with fruit. In honor of cooler days to come and the heavenly aroma of apple pies inundating the air in lucky kitchens, we bring you a simple cocktail recipe sure to elicit mental visions of such glory: Apple Season in a Glass.

Apple Season in a Glass

The key ingredient here is Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie liqueur. An inexpensive (though still hard to find in the South) bottle of liqueur built on apples, spices and neutral grain spirits. On its own, it’s sweet, sticky, and almost impossibly true to the aroma and flavor of apple pie. It’s like taking a pie in the face, and it begs for balance. A nice rye (or bourbon, to each his own) will do just the trick. We like Russell’s Reserve Rye (6 year old) as a nice cocktail mixer. It brings a nice toastiness and slight bitterness to the table. A dash of Peychaud’s bitters adds a touch of aromatic complexity, again balancing out the sweetness of the liqueur. There are certainly more complex and challenging recipes that will get you a similar taste of apple season, but this is a nice and easy way to help your mind escape the lingering summer heat and swing into Fall.

Ingredients:
1.5 oz rye whiskey
1 oz Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie Liqueur
Peychaud’s bitters to taste

Preparation:
Shake and strain into an old-fashioned glass half-filled with broken ice.

Notes:
Adding cinnamon or nutmeg will be overkill on top of the liqueur, though a cinnamon stick would be a nice visual touch.